Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, USA Today, and the Chicago Tribune. She is the 2005 recipient of the American Academy of Relgion's award for best religion reporting.
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What Happens When You Feature Secular Art in Sacred Space
To walk into First Congregational Church of Los Angeles on a Sunday morning is to see all the trappings of the mainline Protestant denominations pundits say are dying for lack of innovation, of relevance, of connection to the world outside church walls. There’s the robed pastor and choir, the 20,000-pipe organ playing the expected Bach interlude, the white-draped Communion table set with silver goblets, the well-thumbed pew Bibles, and the paper church bulletin being used as a fan by a couple of overly warm parishioners.
Church of John Coltrane Evicted
The altar is set with a drum kit, a keyboard, a saxophone, and, most importantly, a much-loved vinyl rendering of a jazz classic, complete with liner notes. When this church and its 70 members are forced to leave their storefront location at the end of next month, they will pack those instruments as lovingly as they will the shiny brass tabernacle that holds the Eucharist, the brass cross, and the scarlet and gold icons that grace all the walls.
Sunday School Crafts Get an Ironic Step Up
If Dana Carvey’s Church Lady wrote a craft book, it would look a lot like What Would Jesus Craft?: 30 Simple Projects for Making a Blessed Home. Born out of a lifelong collection of just plain wacky stuff gathered by author Ross MacDonald, the book blends tongue-in-cheek satire with tender regard for a 1950s Christian sensibility to serve up do-it-yourself craft projects that would make Jesus weep.
‘Of Kings and Prophets’ Like ‘Game of Thrones’ Minus the Dragons
Seger, who said she has seen only trailers of the series, says there can still be a market for such shows among Christians, like herself, or Jews.
“A Christian audience can get hooked on exactly the same things that any other audience does: violence, blood, sex, etc.,” she said. “As Christians, we might want to be high-minded and enlightened but that doesn’t mean we are.”
Catholic 'Seal of the Confessional' Upheld as Religious Liberty Issue
A Louisiana judge has ruled that a state law requiring clergy to report child abuse or other crimes learned in the confessional is unconstitutional because it infringes on religious liberty. At issue is a long-running case involving Rebecca Mayeaux, a 22-year-old who claims that when she was 14 she told the Rev. Jeff Bayhi, a Catholic priest, during confession that a church member was abusing her. Mayeaux claims Bayhi told her to “sweep it under the rug.”
On Darwin Day, Evolution Debate Is Still Evolving
In 2005, a federal judge ruled that “intelligent design” — the idea that life is so complex it must have involved some sort of supernatural creator — isn’t science, but religion in disguise.
Science educators heralded the decision, and many thought it spelled the end of creationism in public schools.
They were wrong.
Phoenix Opts for Silence Over Prayers at Public Meetings
The city of Phoenix has decided to replace prayer at its public meetings with a moment of silence. The move comes after a representative from the Satanic Temple was approved to say a prayer, or invocation, before a council meeting scheduled for Feb. 17.
'The Birth of a Nation' Takes Sundance by Storm
Reserve the hashtag #Oscarssoblack for next year’s awards. That’s because if viewer response is any indication, “The Birth of a Nation,” an independent biopic about a black slave, preacher, and rebel-leader, seems destined for Academy Award nominations in 2017.
Atheist Seeks Removal of 'God' From U.S. Currency — Again
A California atheist who once argued against the Pledge of Allegiance before the Supreme Court has launched a federal legal challenge to the phrase “In God We Trust” on American currency. Michael Newdow , 62, a Sacramento-based emergency-room doctor, filed a federal lawsuit seeking to strip reference to God from paper money and coins in an Ohio court earlier this month. Newdow claims the motto is a violation of his religious freedom.
New Director of Secular Group Identifies as 'Unaffiliated Christian,' Aims to Reach 'Nones'
The Secular Coalition for America, a lobbying group with atheist, humanist and other nonbeliever member organizations, has hired a Christian as its new executive director. Larry Decker, 40, was raised in an independent Baptist church but now identifies as a “none” — one of the 23 percent of Americans who say they are religiously unaffiliated, according to the Pew Research Center. Like the majority of nones, Decker is not an atheist; he still identifies as a Christian, albeit a nominal one.
Is the Star of Bethlehem for Real?
The Star of Bethlehem is the name given to an event in the night sky that the Gospel of Matthew says heralded the birth of Jesus. Three wisemen — or magi, or kings — come to King Herod and ask, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
New Mormon Same-Sex Marriage Guidelines Provoke Feeling of Whiplash
Gay marriage is now the law of the land and, increasingly, a line in the sand conservative churches say they will not cross.
The latest is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On Nov. 5, it issued new guidelines, saying Mormons in same-sex relationships will face possible excommunication and their children will not be permitted to join the church until they are 18 — and then only if they reject their parents’ relationship.
The new policies make the LDS church, with about 15 million members globally, the largest Christian denomination to enact such a formal — and some say draconian — policy. Children of same-sex couples are effectively denied baptism and other ordinances of the church.
“I am sure everyone feels regret about this,” said D. Michael Quinn, a scholar who was excommunicated by the LDS church in 1993 but still considers himself a Mormon.
“The leaders who have instituted this have done so without any relish. They have done so with regret. All Mormons down the line will look at it as regrettable.”
Evangelical Pastor to Peers: 'Don't Kill a Muslim'
When a half-dozen activists and community leaders sat down to address interfaith relations in the increasingly diverse heartland city of Nashville, Tenn., one paused before his turn to speak, took a breath and said:
“As a white, male, evangelical pastor on this panel, I guess I represent everything that is wrong.”
The speaker, Joshua Graves, the 36-year-old senior pastor of Otter Creek Church, an 1,800-member suburban megachurch, had a point. Evangelicals like him have had a rocky relationship with American Muslims.
But then again, he may also represent everything that could be right in Christian-Muslim understanding.
Modern Orthodox Judaism Says 'No' to Women Rabbis
Women who would be Orthodox rabbis were handed a major setback Oct. 30 when the highest religious body for Modern Orthodox Jews ruled against their ordination.
The Rabbinical Council of America officially prohibited the ordination of women, or the use of the term “rabbi” or “maharat” for women, in what it described as a direct vote of its membership.
The prohibition comes six years after the founding of a yeshiva, or religious school, for women in New York City. The school, Yeshivat Maharat, has ordained less than a dozen women who use the honorific “maharat” instead of rabbi and has placed graduates and interns at 17 Orthodox synagogues in the U.S. and Canada.
Parliament of World's Religions Convenes in Mormon Country — At Last
When the World’s Parliament of Religions first met in Chicago in 1893, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and even Spiritualists prayed together.
But Mormons were kept out.
What a difference 122 years make. On Oct. 15, when the Parliament of the World’s Religions — a slight adjustment of the name was made a century after the first meeting — convenes in Salt Lake City, it will not only feature a slate of Mormon voices, it will sit in the proverbial lap of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its global headquarters only a five-minute walk away.
Hundreds Shut Out of Sole Session on Gays at World Meeting of Families
Just as the single session on homosexuality at this Vatican-approved meeting of Catholic families was to begin on Sept. 24, a conference official took the stage in the main hall, capable of seating at least 10,000, and announced the location had been moved.
Thousands of people got up and made their way up one floor to another room capable of seating only about 1,000. Hundreds of others were turned away, the doors shut on them by convention center officials citing fire code regulations.
O Happy Day! A Surprise Gospel Moment
I knew this was going to be a great trip. I did not know it would afford me a chance to scratch off the top item on my bucket list.
But when the iconic gospel singer Bobby Jones met with the band of international journalists I am traveling with on a fellowship from the East-West Center, he mentioned the song “Oh Happy Day” was so popular among his fans in Russia, Italy and Japan that he can’t get offstage there without singing it.
Radicalization Is Not a ‘Muslim Problem'
Extremist groups like ISIS and Al Qaida are trying to radicalize young Muslims through well-produced and elaborate online videos and sweeping Twitter campaigns targeted at disaffected young men and women around the world.
Three London school girls recently ran away to join ISIS in Syria after encountering recruiters on Twitter. A Sunday school teacher in Washington state secretly converted to Islam and planned to leave home to join the only Muslims she knew — Isis recruiters she encountered through social media. In Virginia, a local imam meets with young men and women whose families fear they will answer the call of ISIS sent through their cellphones.
As one member of the local law enforcement told our group of 17 international journalists, “There is a terrorist in your pocket and it is talking to you all the time.”
The NFL's Nonbelieving Pro-Bowler
Earlier this month, NFL star Arian Foster, a running back for the Houston Texans, sent ripples through the world of professional football when he came out as a nonbeliever in the pages of ESPN Magazine.
Though he is not exactly an atheist — Foster told reporter Tim Keown he shuns that label and believes in "nothing" — Foster offered a counternarrative to the overwhelmingly Christian world of professional football and the college football system that feeds it.
"Everybody always says the same thing: You have to have faith," Foster, who is 28, says in the magazine.
While there are certainly other football players with nontraditional religious beliefs, Foster is the only active professional football player who has been open about his nonbelief.
Black, Bisexual, Buddhist, and Not Afraid to Embrace Who She Is
When Zenju Earthlyn Manuel goes to teach somewhere for the first time, she often sees surprise in the faces of the students as she is introduced.
She doesn’t look like many of them expect. She isn’t Asian. She isn’t a man. And she isn’t white.
And getting them to acknowledge that her body — her “manifestation,” as she calls it — is different and a part of her experience is crucial to her teaching. If our bodies are sources of suffering, then we ignore them at our peril.
“When I have held and embraced who I am, how I am embodied, it has become a source of enlightenment, of freedom,” she said from a sunny corner window seat in her living room. Draped in a black monk’s jacket, she is a stark contrast to the white walls and white upholstery of the rest of the room.